Whatever Happened To The West? Part III

Christmas, being the time of joyful celebration for the birth of the Messiah, leads also to meditation and reflection.

For some, it may involve a reevaluation of what was, or was not, accomplished. For others it might be a prayer and wish that the coming year may be a better one. For others still, there may just be full contentment for hopes fulfilled.

But this Christmas season, as 2017 wends its way into history, we might also reflect on who and what we are, what we have become. That we might consider the life of our civilization, because of which we live as we want.

Are we good stewards of our civilization? Do we know how to husband and sustain it? Or do we think things will look after themselves as they always do, why worry? We might think that life just keeps getting better, and everything is wonderful.

But it might not be a bad idea to undertake some reflect, so that we might know how we ought to live. That is the hardest part – knowing how we ought to live, because all-too-often, we live thoughtlessly, just getting through each day.

How we ought to live, and how we actually do spend our time tend to be miles apart. This isn’t some trite lecture on efficiency, or worse a feel-good pep-talk on fulfilling goals and then setting new ones. The world is too full already of all that saccharine advice.

Perhaps this Christmas, we might consider the life of our civilization – where is it headed, what are we doing in it, why does any of this matter?

Recently, I was rereading the work of the Italian philosopher, Marcello Pera. One book in particular needs to be read more widely by all those who still value the civilization of the West.

In the coming years ahead, what we still call the West will be near collapse – not because of foreign enemies, but because of apathy and apostasy of those of us who still want to enjoy the fruits of the West, without thinking how the tree that keeps on giving may be cared for and protected that it might continue to give us and our future generations the fruits that we now take for granted.

By their fruits shall ye know them,” is a good starting.

Right now, the West is at a crossroad (some may say that it’s already too late and we’ve veered into the wrong, destructive path).

But perhaps the choice is still to be made.

Shall we, as a civilization, take the broad gate that leads to destruction, because it’s a lot easier and we’re complacent and can’t be bothered?

Or, do we take the narrow gate, which is difficult and leads to much hardship, but which will lead us to redemption?

As in most things in life, there are only ever two choices. Never more – good or evil.

Likewise, we as a civilization have two choices – naturalism, or Christianity – evil or good.

All the grand promises of a technological civilization, grounded in atheism and secularism, are merely siren songs, which can harbor nothing but destruction. The Jacobins tried to build such a civilization in France after 1789. The result was relentless cruelty. Indeed, why should a rational man be kind, when kindness is deemed a flaw and then as weakness?

And what have been the fruits of naturalism? The National Razor (what the Jacobins called the guillotine), Gulags, concentration camps, the murderous “leap forward” of the Moaists, the killing fields of Cambodia, the slaughter of “revolution” in Cuba and South America.

And the fruits of Christianity? The very values and ideas we hold to be fundamental to our way of life: kindness, goodness, charity and love.

Christianity is only hated when grand lies are fashioned about it, and then ceaselessly repeated until they settle in the minds of the hapless as obvious and absolute “truths.”

But in the words of Marcel Mauss, ““Our own notion of the human person is still basically the Christian one.”

In other words, the West may try, but it cannot hide the fact that it is fully – and only – a Christian civilization.

Many try to deny this fact and try to cobble together some sort of culture without Christianity. But this can only fashion some sort of tyranny, for how can you have morality through atheism? And then how can you actually create a civilization without morality?

More importantly, without morality, human life is impossible, because people need love, goodness, charity. There is no life without it – just bestial existence.

And the morality of the West is Christianity. Without it, it’s dead.

Here the words of Simone Weill bear recalling: “…how can bring oneself to love anything other than the good?” This is essential definition of civilization. Only Christianity offers both the love and the good.

Marcello Pera explores this theme fully in his fascinating book, Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians. The Religious Roots of Free Societies. Even though this book came out in 2011, it is worth revisiting, because it has much to teach us, since the tension between Christianity and naturalism is only accelerating.

Pera is a secular philosopher.  So, why would a secular philosopher write a book urging the nations of the western world to rediscover their history and openly declare themselves to be Christian countries?

The answer to this question is clear enough – the West is the production of only one religion – and none other – Christianity.

It is because of Christianity that the West came to dominate the world. Why? Because Christianity gave it liberty, democracy, human dignity, charity, non-violence, love of others, individualism, equality before the law, education for all.

No other culture in the world was able to produce these universal virtues. Why not? Because they were not Christian.

These ideas spurred the West to advance morally, socially, economically, and politically far beyond other nations.

However, these ideas have gradually been detached from their Christian context and given a secular framework – what philosophers commonly call, “naturalism” (there is no God, no afterlife, and humans are simply another type of animal that has won dominance of the planet).

Naturalism is so deeply entrenched in the West that it is taken to be its default worldview.

Because of this pervasive attitude, Christianity is blamed and ridiculed as “unreasonable,” “unscientific”, “unprogressive,” and far worse.

These negative definitions of Christianity have led to open hostility, because it alone stands in the way of the positively defined qualities of naturalism.

But who is doing all this defining? That’s the question citizens of the West should be asking? Why are their politicians openly encouraging civilizational suicide?

Further, naturalism is allied with relativism which denies comparison of cultures, religions, worldviews – so that we can never say one religion, or even culture, is better than another.

And yet in a direct contradiction to all this, those that profess such relativism, then proceed to hold up ideas, such as, equality for women, individual freedom, and charity for all. They do not, or cannot, explain why these values are better in themselves – or why they are good for all.

Pera then presents a counter-argument: “Christianity has changed the world…it has brought about an unprecedented moral revolution of love, equality, and dignity, whose effects are still at work today…had this revolution never occurred, the world would be more savage…Christianity is of great value…it is a good unto itself.”

Still the West is intent on emptying itself of its history and culture – its Christianity – in order to build a new society that will be truly secular.

The signs of this “new society,” this “new social order” are already apparent: Limitless consumption, blind hedonism, distraction and entertainment through technology – and worst of all, the replacement of ideas with agitprop, the weaponization of sexuality, the control of language, the denial of free expression via the phantom of “hate speech,” the destruction of education until it is now indoctrination.

And naturalism is fueled by the credo: Pleasure is good; its denial is evil. The West will implode because of it.

Strangely, the most ardent upholders of naturalism are the courts. Pera explains: “The bench and high courts, in order to enhance their own influence and transform themselves into an absolute authority, have even come up with a theory…according to which the task of judges is not to interpret and apply specific laws but to enforce general principles.”

In this way, controversial practices (such as abortion, same-sex marriages, euthanasia, polygamy, the erosion of bio- medical and scientific ethics and now the rise of digisexuality are normalized, not by the will of the people expressed, say, in plebiscites – but by court rulings.

This is “judicial imperialism,” that is, judicial dictatorship, where courts are permitted to enforce ideology rather than implement the laws of the land.

They do this, because citizens of the West are now incapable of expressing any kind of a collective moral voice – they are confused by the constant legitimation of personal desires as “rights.”

Such is the West today – rootless, amoral, free-floating, empty of all historical and cultural content; intent on pleasure.

It is any wonder that internationalism is held up as an ideal, while patriotism is decried as “racism” and “hate speech?” This really is the old language of Communism – and hardly disguised. It works because people have no history whatsoever any more.

But Pera points to a solution: “If we live as Christians, we will be wiser and more aware of the dangers we face. We will not separate morality from truth. We will not confuse moral autonomy with any free choice. We will not treat individuals, whether the unborn or the dying, as things. We will not allow all desires to be transformed into rights. We will not confine reason within the boundaries of science. Nor will we feel alone in a society of strangers or oppressed by a state that appropriates us because we no longer know how to guide ourselves.”

The revolutionary Christian message needs to be bravely declared by citizens of the West who still remain Christians so that politicians will listen.

The churches that are hand-in-glove to Statism need to be destroyed (like the church of Sweden that has banned the words, “God,” “Lord,” “Father” which means the theological concept of Divine Fatherhood is deemed to be “hate speech. Thus, in the end, all heresies verge in madness). When the spirit of truth departs, so must the people.

Naturalism creates, promotes and celebrates such lunacy. Christians in the West need to wake up before they’re sucked into the spreading maelstrom (to use a Swedish word).

Only Christians can save the West from the Hell envisioned by naturalism. This is Grand Crusade of the 21st-century. We need a return of Christian manliness to even face it, let alone overcome it.

Pera’s book is a much-needed wake-up call. It should be essential reading for all who want to align western societies once more to the truth of democracy – which is Christianity.

Naturalism can only offer Gulags, concentration camps, and killing fields. Will Christians recoup their moral courage? Or will they succumb because of theur apathy? That is the stark choice that now lies ahead.


The photo shows, “Lost Illusions,” by Léon Dussart and Marc Gabriel Charles Gleyre, painted ca. 1865 to 1867.

Is Christianity Bad For The Environment?

On Boxing Day, 1966, a medieval historian delivered a paper to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The paper was entitled, “The Historic Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis.” The historian was Lynn White, Jr.

The paper caused quite the stir, and by the time it was published in the March 1967 issue of Science magazine, it was already famous.

So famous that it remains a classic to this day and is used by all who want to further their various environmental agendas by bashing Christianity for being inherently anti-ecological.

In his paper, White made wide-ranging claims, which are nothing more than his own misunderstood or misrepresented notions about Christian history, Christian theology, and the history of ideas. Needless to say, he comes across as not really knowing what he’s actually talking about.

In brief, this is what White claimed to be the “truth”…

  • That the western mind is conditioned to exploit and dominate and degrade nature.
  • That western man views the whole of nature as specifically created for human use (and therefore open to exploitation at all cost).
  • That the western mind forever seeks to control nature because it is indifferent to what nature really is (a living entity).
  • That the only way to stop natural degradation is to work towards changing the western mind to a more eco-friendly one.
  • Therefore, western man is a despot because of the way he has been conditioned to think.
  • How did western man come up with such a wretched mindset –you guessed it…because of Christianity. You see, people read five verses in the Bible (Genesis 1:25-30), and launched into full exploitation mode.
  • White’s solution? Radically change Christianity, or replace it with something more kind and gentle to nature.

As is obvious, this sort of thinking has had a deep and pervasive influence in the West, with Christianity being portrayed as the chief villain, responsible for all kinds of nastiness like, “colonialism,” “patriarchy,” “racism,” “gender-bias,” and even “misogyny.”

Hence the concerted and relentless attacks on Christianity, which the emotional rather than intellectual progeny of White perceive as a roadblock to their Utopia of “green,” “sustainable,” “multicultural,” “gender-neutral,” “matriarchal” life.

But is any of this true?

Many people have tried to take White’s essay to task, but his assumptions are now protected by the hallowed cloak of being a “classic.”

Thus, all critical responses are ultimately ineffectual, since once the influence of a “classic” percolates down into popular mythology, criticisms become ineffectual and thus meaningless.

The critique that follows of White’s shallow understanding and misrepresentation is fully cognizant of its own ultimate pointlessness.

The truly sad consequence of White’s mythologization is that most Christians actually accept what he preaches and try to correct and “update” their received theology.

Of course, the minute you say a theology needs updating, you also fully accept the fact then that said theology cannot be true, because it needs updating to “fit into” what the world has now become. But that’s a side issue for now.

Let’s continue with White.

His arguments and assumptions show that he does not really understand anything outside his own narrow area of specialization (which was medieval technology). But that never really stopped anyone from formulating opinions based on what he thinks he knows, rather than on what he actually knows.

Even in his scholarly works, he is peddling assumptions that have long been proven to be incorrect, or just plain wrong. For example, in his magnum opus, Medieval Technology and Social Change, which is best left on the bookshelf unread.

So, if he can’t even get things right in his own area of expertise, is he really to be trusted when he launches into critiquing and then suggesting “viable” solutions for something he’s not an expert on – like the environment and the western mind?

One should hope not!

For example, he knows nothing about Christian history, Greco-Roman philosophy, Roman Christianity, ancient religions, scriptural hermeneutics.

And he most certainly knows nothing about theology (not even medieval theology – and he was a medievalist), philosophy, Modernism, secularism, Marxism, consumerism and postmodernism (Jacques Derrida’s seminal work, Of Grammatology came out in 1967, the same year as White’s essay).

He needed to have some acquaintance with these varied areas of research in order to actually critique Christianity, but he was tabula rasa. But he forged on regardless.

In fact, all these developments in western thought had a far more devastating role to play in environmental exploitation than five verses in the Book of Genesis.

But when White sits down to write a comprehensive analysis of what is going wrong with the world, his reach is not simply limited, it’s misguided because he can look no further than his own ignorance.

He’s like the Rev. Dean Drone, in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, who overhears someone calling him a “mugwump,” and is to be found, later that evening, going through a book, entitled, Animals of Palestine. When he can’t find the mugwump listed in said book, the reverend decides that this particular animal must have been unknown “in the greater days of Judea.”

Truth is always complex. It only becomes simple when it is misunderstood, or when it is misrepresented.

Rereading White’s highly influential essay half-a-century later make certain things immediately stand out.

There’s the habit of making sweeping statements which barely crawl past the opinion stage.

Things like:

  • that Christianity wrongly destroyed the better pagan view of seeing spirits in nature;
  • that Christianity teaches anthropocentrism and changes nature from sacred to useful;
  • that Christianity enables the exploitation of nature because the religion is indifferent to the “feelings” of natural things;
  • that Christianity bears the entire “burden of guilt” for making the West into a domineering and exploitative force;
  • and that the West needs to find a better religion, or change Christianity so can be “green” and “eco-friendly.”

Let’s have a look at what White is actually saying.

Is it better to have people believing that spirits inhabit everything, and did Christianity actually destroy it?

Briefly, what White is assuming to be “paganism” is actually “shamanism” (which is nature spirituality). He’s again confused.

Greco-Roman paganism was polytheistic, but it was not shamanistic. Yes, it had gods, but that did not translate into some sort of nature spirituality (for now, let’s just point to the Roman arenas where huge number of animals were slaughtered for entertainment)

Nature, in the Greco-Roman world was seen as chaotic and threatening and thus needed to be controlled. In other words, pollution, degradation and exploitation were rife in the pagan world (White knew nothing about it).

White’s heroes, the pagans, were happy carrying out mass deforestation, while horribly polluting water and air and soil with things like the industrial-scale smelting and mining.

So, how did the Romans become such excellent polluters, exploiters and dominators – without first being instructed, in that fine art, by Genesis 1:25-30? White is clueless.

Greco-Roman paganism was exploitative, domineering, and cruel. White is simply erecting a self-serving construct of “good” pagans so he can the more easily bash Christianity. It’s a lot easier that way.

Thinking that there are spirits everywhere does not make you into a green citizen of the world. According to the Roman example, it makes you a very effective manipulator, because you have to continually come up with strategies to control nature so it won’t harm you. You have to control nature so it kill you. Basic human survival.

Next, does Christianity teach anthropocentrism by transferring nature from the “sacred” slot to useful one, which then leads to indifferent to nature? The answer again is, No.

Once again, White doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Anthropocentrism, as the word suggests, is a Greek invention (long before Christianity). It’s what came to be called, “Humanism.”

Or, in the famous words of Protagoras, “Man is the measure of all things.” The Pre-Socratic philosophers, as well as Plato and Aristotle, knew that nature was meaningless – and useless – without the human mind.

On the other hand, Christjanity denies anthropocentrism, because it makes human beings into God’s creation, who exist in an allegorical relationship with nature.

Nature, in the Christian view, forever teaches mankind eternal truths (that’s why it’s allegorical).

This is the view of the Bible and all the Christian theologians, such as, Origen, Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Meister Eckhart, and many others.

Thus, in the Christian view, nature is not useful, it is didactic – it is a guide, a counselor, an adviser to mankind about the mysteries of God.

This means that a Christian cannot be indifferent and hostile to nature. Such an attitude would be a denial of God’s purpose. How? Because both nature and Scripture are one and the same.

White is simplistic and wrong, because the Christian view of nature is far more sophisticated and caring than he can imagine. He just doesn’t have the proper intellectual background to discuss the issue properly. So, by default he turns to what he actually knows, like Rev Drone.

Next, did Christianity make the West into both “dominating” and “exploitative?” Again, no.

White cannot fathom the fact that any community, any culture, any civilization has the right to clothe and feed itself. Humans cannot exist without dominating and exploiting natural resources.

This is the real problem that all modern environmental activists cannot solve. How a world built according to their “green specifications” will actually feed and clothe itself?

When White extrapolates western negative character traits from Genesis 1:25-30, he is veering into territory that he doesn’t understand.

The real exploitation and domination only begins when the West cuts itself off from Christianity and pretends that it can live rootlessly.

It’s the West’s scientific secularism and atheism which changes nature into an inert thing. Therefore, mankind sets out trying to find uses for what nature has. Exploitation follows, as usefulness ramps up into consumerism, which is an extension of materialism.

Consumerism has only virtue – profit. Here the shadow of Thomas Hobbes looms large, but White can’t notice it.

So, ecological degradation is the by-product of materialism. That is where the blame really lies.

But White is hampered by his own ignorance, and the Rev. Dean Drake has to root around in his own limited knowledge in order to come up with an explanation to a very complex historical process.

As for White’s “solution” of creating a better religion than Christianity, or fixing Christianity so it becomes “better” for him, that’s all just his own fix to a problem that he himself has created.

Of course, if you’re going to say that all the world’s problems come from Genesis 1:25-30, then the fix is easy. Get rid of Genesis 1:25-30.

But what if the problem is far more convoluted than White can even imagine?

How can a man, who shows a very limited understanding of the life of ideas, actually presume to correct, and fix, what he is clueless about?

White has no solutions. He just has a faulty agenda that he wants to push as the “truth.” His “arguments” are nothing but caricatures of thinking.

Here’s the ultimate problem that White faces. He’s trying to prove the historical consequences of five scriptural verses.

In other words, he has veered into proving reception – and he’s both inadequate and incapable for the task.

White best trick is to trundle long-debunked notions, like the “Protestant Work Ethic,” which was invented by Max Weber (who wanted to understand why the West became secular and atheistic).

In other words, White tries to prove his case by relying on false data. And, importantly, he doesn’t even know that it’s false! He thinks it’s all true!

Then, there’s that annoying fact about Christianity outside of Europe – in Africa, and in all (yes, all) parts of Asia.

How come none of these Christians suddenly got into domination and exploitation mode after reading Genesis 1:25-30?

But, lest some social-justice-warriors gleefully leap into the usual Europe-bashing routine, let’s continue with another problem that White cannot address (because he’s clueless that it even exists).

The Genesis creation exists also in Judaism. Surely, given the immense amount of cultural power that White ascribes to Genesis 1:25-30, one would expect that when Jews read these words, say, in Djerba, they might paddle out into the Gulf of Gabès, looking for ways exploit and dominate?

In other words, why do people in other parts of the world react (receive) Genesis 1:25-30 differently from what White imagines? If only the words of this passage have had such a devastating effect?

But…White says nothing about such Genesis-indoctrinated Jews and Christians beyond Europe.

According to White’s scheme of things, these five Bible verses only changed Europeans into the domineering, exploitative sort. Why, of course!

Need we go on? Well, just for a bit longer.

The Genesis story also appears (wait for it…) in the Koran, in the Al-Baqarah section, where Adam is (you guessed it) given dominion over the earth, as Allah’s Caliph (or a sort of Pope), to do as he pleases – and to let loose blood and devastation, as Allah’s angels observe.

But, as might be guessed, White knowns nothing about the Genesis-Koran connection.

So, the reception of the Genesis creation story is not only “Eurocentric” and “Protestant-Work-Ethical.” It is also Asian-and-African Christian, Jewish, and Islamic.

Outside of Europe it seems, Genesis 1:25-30 couldn’t do its usual “conditioning.”

But since White seems not to know about any of this, he can safely assume that it just doesn’t exist.

Then, there’s the larger problem of how the entire book of Genesis has actually been read and understood throughout Christian history.

In Christian theology (another topic that White knows nothing about – but that has never stopped anybody when there’s an ax to grind), the term used in Genesis 1:25-30, “dominion” never meant exploitation or domination (as White assumes – which points to the fact that he’s a literalist – and you can only be a literalist if you don’t know much).

“Whiteism” is the problem with present-day literalists, as well – they read the Bible without any understanding, or knowledge of, the Magisterium, the vast tradition of learning that complements and theologically explains what is contained in the Bible. This is a problem with Protestantism, where people have to make things up as they go along.

White does the same thing – make things up as he goes along, so he can sound convincing.

In fact, in Christian theology, the word “dominion,” in Genesis, refers to controlling the passions of the body which always led to sin.

“Dominion” never had an ecological sense at all. This sense has been added by White.

Historically, Christians read the Bible allegorically, not literally (literalism is the result of secularism, which sees itself as an authority in and of itself).

In fact, when we project a literalist reading of Scripture back into time, we are only demonstrating our own ignorance.

With the rise of secularism, the intellectual tradition of Christianity has all but vanished. This results in the rootlessness of the West, which now sees its own nourishment (Christianity) as poisonous. This attitude is created by the Enlightenment.

It is secularism which launches Europe into exploitation and domination mode – not Christianity.

For example, here’s Joseph Glanvill, writing in 1665 – that the new philosophy (the Enlightenment) offers “ways of captivating Nature, and making her subserve our purposes and designments.” He continues that this will lead to “the Empire of Man over Nature.”

This has nothing to do with Genesis 1:25-30.

By the way, none of these Enlightenment philosophers adds, “I’m getting all this, in case you’re wondering, from Genesis 1:25-30 and so, God wills it, etc.”

It’s highly doubtful that White bothered much with the many, many secular philosophers during and after the Enlightenment.

White was what he was – but the reception of his critique has been long-lived, and therefore his notions need to be challenged and debunked.

Alas, most Christians today have drunk his Kool-Aid and go about lecturing everyone how Christians need to get past the exploitative and domineering message of Genesis 1:25-30.

Sadder still is the fact that both Christians and their critics are deeply ignorant of the history of western ideas.

If we do not know history, we don’t just repeat it, but we stupidly repeat the lies fed to us.

But that is the tale of the modern world – flying off into high moral dudgeon because of the rhetorical force of lies.

What is the real Christian ecological message?

Here it is: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:26).

It is only when this real message of Christianity is forgotten and lost, that exploitation and domination begin.

And if people want to find the ideas that led to exploitation and wilful domination, then they need look no further than secularism.

The spoliation of the earth, and the exploitation of the weak, are both the fruits of the West’s apostasy from its true root – the redemptive message of Christianity.

Without it, the West is lost…”You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5:13).



The photo shows, “Chapel on the Edge of the Wood, ” by Karl Friedrich Lessing, painted in 1839.

Are Vegetarians Truly Ethical?

Can you be a vegetarian for ethical reasons, and then be fine with getting an abortion?

I’m not against pro-choice. As a libertarian I endorse it. But after you’ve chosen, why is there often also hypocrisy?

Does being pro-life really exclude being pro-choice?  After all, I can be against smoking being illegal, but that doesn’t mean I want people to start smoking!

As a vegetarian, I admire my fellow vegetarians for aligning food with ethics. There is a great need for this sort of approach to the way we live.

I approached vegetarianism as a pacifist, I value all form of life and want to cause as little destruction to the world as possible.

So, there are many vegetarians who refuse to eat meat because they object to killing animals, which is a perfectly viable stance to have.

Yet, these same vegetarians, in their politics, are liberals, who don’t mind, or even object to abortion. Can you truly despise eating pork chops, but see nothing wrong with destroying human life, in the place where it is supposed to be the safest – the human womb?

This is high hypocrisy, to be an ethical, human-rights vegetarian, and then see nothing wrong with killing a prenatal child.

After all, if you are a vegetarian because of a desire to preserve life and consciousness, then wouldn’t you want to defend the life of one of the most conscious animals alive – the human being?

If you are a pacifist vegetarian who wishes to stop violence, then wouldn’t you be averse to the killing or destruction of life in all forms, a fetus included?

A true pacifist seeks to end a problem using solutions that are alternatives to violence. Thus, wouldn’t you seek to end the systemic reasons behind abortion, such as poverty, as opposed to participating in the violence, by not objecting to it?

I acknowledge that someone could be a vegetarian for other reasons (having a more efficient food supply, health reasons, to name a few).

But then that person can’t really claim that his/her vegetarianism is rooted in some moral ground – if they see the prenatal child as of no value, while in the womb.

Could it be that for most vegetarians, who cling to liberal politics, their show of ethical food consumption is nothing other than virtue signalling, to win cultural and peer approval?

Should ethics touch all of one’s life, and guide all actions?



The photo shows, “Still Life With Candle,” by Ivan Khrutsky, painted in the 1830s.

Why Liberals Are Narrow-Minded

In today’s world, discussion about morals is a lost art. In part, this is because stupidity is on display everywhere, and encouraged to be so, even though most people’s thoughts and opinions are less than worthless, as a glance at Facebook or The New York Times comment sections will tell you.

More deeply, it’s because America is dominated today by the nearly universal (but wholly unexamined) belief that the only legitimate principle of moral judgment is John Stuart Mill’s “harm principle” – that no restriction on human action can be justified other than to prevent harm to another.

The Righteous Mind is an extended attack on the usefulness of the harm principle as the sole way to understand and justify human morality, combined with detailed explanations of the much broader ways in which people can and do view morality.

The author, Jonathan Haidt, uses this framework to understand political differences, and to plead for an increase in rationality and civility to arise from that understanding.

I am not hopeful such an increase will happen. But this book is fascinating beyond belief. For a relatively short book, it packs in a tremendous amount of insight. It is therefore difficult to review or summarize; I could spend pages discussing relatively minor matters covered in the book.

Haidt has that talent which eludes other science writers such as Steven Pinker – the ability to condense complex material without losing impact. The result is a work well worth reading.

The book is divided into three main parts. The first and third deal with how humans engage in moral reasoning, and how that affects politics. The middle part deals with, in essence, evolutionary psychology—how humans became as we are now in regard to morality, and what that implies for us today.

The first part of the book contains what is perhaps Haidt’s most counter-intuitive claim, on which the entire book rests – that the majority of moral reasoning is intuitive and pre-rational, and that the rational side of each person participates primarily to justify a conclusion already reached, which reasoning is “useful to further our social agendas.”

Haidt uses the metaphor of an elephant (intuition) and rider (reason) – mostly, the rider does what the elephant says, although sometimes the rider can guide the elephant, or at least influence him.

He begins with a captivating review of how moral psychology has been studied and viewed by academics over the past few decades.

In the 1960s through the 1990s, it was believed, following Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg, that children had no inborn moral impulses, but figured out morality for themselves through their interactions, so-called “rationalism.”

This theory believed that as children become able to see the world as others saw it, they come to understand that fairness is everything, and build their morality around metrics of equal treatment.

Moreover, as Elliot Turiel showed, children can differentiate between arbitrary and universal rules, nearly always believing that harm to others is wrong regardless of what is dictated by formal rules.

As Haidt notes, these researchers’ conclusion, that morality’s chief aim is reducing harm and creating fairness, and that any other moral judgment is imposed arbitrarily from without by societies and cultures, dovetailed precisely with the then-rising American liberal (i.e., progressive) consensus, of maximizing personal freedom without limitation or end.

This further reinforced its accuracy in the minds of its investigators, because it fit with what they personally believed.

But this science was all wrong.

These researchers fell into the trap of believing that because American children, and certain groups of Americans they studied, based their morality on fairness and non-harm, all others also did so.

Haidt relates how he personally started with the same beliefs that were popular at the time (in the 1990s), but when he started reading Richard Shweder, an expert in Indian moral psychology, and went to India for some time, immersing himself in the culture in a non-judgmental way, he began to understand that people there viewed the world very, very differently.

He began to wonder what that implied for morality – was the American view overly narrow and simplistic? At the most basic level, the difference in morality he saw was between individualistic, American-type views, and sociocentric views, “placing the needs of groups and institutions first, and subordinating the needs of individuals.”

Harm in this view is not irrelevant, nor is fairness, but they are far from the most important consideration, whereas in an individualistic culture, where society cannot make any non-harm based demands on its individual members, it is the only thing that matters.

Individualism basically came on the scene during the Enlightenment and only in the West; the rest of the world is still primarily sociocentric.

Beginning to see this, Haidt spent the next years conducting ever larger studies, among a variety of cultures and classes, to see what the moral views were of people in hypothetical scenarios, some of which involved harm, and some of which involved other possible moral principles, such as loyalty and purity.

He began to realize that it is simply false that children create morality for themselves out of the harm principle; instead, they have certain innate impulses, which are guided and enhanced by learning from the culture in which they grow up.

There are many more innate impulses than mere avoidance of harm to others (which is also innate, not formed by rational thinking, contrary to Piaget and Kohlberg) and there is a complex relationship between those impulses and culture.

Haidt then turns back to a history lesson, starting with Plato’s Timaeus and looking at various ways we have viewed the relationship among mind, reason, and morality. He discusses Hume, Jefferson, and most importantly for his book, Darwin.

Haidt notes how in the mid-twentieth century, the idea that there was any native, or inherent, element to human nature became toxic, leading to the demand that all right thinking people reject that human nature exists, with the necessary conclusion that morality is purely the result of reasoning, with no innate component.

He discusses how ideology was used to suppress those who thought otherwise, such as Edward O. Wilson, excoriated for daring to challenge the scientific consensus, but rehabilitated today.

Over time, as evidence built up to the contrary, this monolith eroded, and an inherent human nature became recognized (though it is still denied in some quarters).

For Haidt’s purposes, the crucial element of this realization was that various experiments showed that intuitions were critical to moral conclusions, with reasoning playing second fiddle: “Moral reasoning was mostly just a post hoc search for reasons to justify the judgments people had already made.”

We “see-that” before “reasoning-why.” We do this not to tell ourselves why we believe something, but, for evolutionary reasons, to “find the best possible reasons why somebody else ought to join us in our judgment.”

It is important to realize that intuitions are not irrational, they are a type of cognition, not inherently of less worth than abstract reasoning.

And, most critically, if you want to convince others you have to address their intuitions, not their reasoning, since the former comes first, and for the most part trying to address their reasoning is like addressing the rider where the elephant is actually in control.

In fact, people who don’t make moral judgments this way, who instead use pure reason, are psychopaths, incapable of normal human interaction.  (Almost all psychopaths are men, Haidt mentions – throughout the book, although he does not emphasize it, it is obvious that Haidt views men and women as far from interchangeable, probably for the evolutionary reasons he stresses in other contexts).

Finally, in this section, Haidt demonstrates through the results of experiments that many of the reasons we state for believing as we do are social in nature – designed to enhance our popularity, justify ourselves to others, justify ourselves to ourselves, engage in confirmation bias, and, critically, find reasons that result in actions benefiting not just us but our group—all just like a politician, although here Haidt is not making specific political claims.

Our stated reasons are largely manufactured to accomplish these goals after we have already concluded our moral judgments.

This implies, among other things, that we cannot get good behavior by rationalism; that philosopher kings are not going to be more moral than anyone else; and that teaching ethics is worthless (which I have long believed, so I am sure Haidt is correct) – we should instead be conditioning intuitions.

So Haidt, in the second part, turns to the specifics of those innate intuitions. More specifically, he sets out to prove given that morality is largely based on intuition, that those intuitions are much more, and much broader, than the harm and fairness intuitions that are the sole focus of “modern secular Western morality.”

Haidt’s objection is not that the harm principle, in particular, is unjust or wrong, but that any moral theory resting on a single principle is not in keeping with how people really view morality, and therefore both are largely useless as an explanation and overly constraining as a hortatory method.

“Modern secular Western morality” is what Haidt also calls (following a group of cultural psychologists), WEIRD morality, where the acronym stands for “Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic.”

“WEIRD people are statistical outliers; they are the least typical, least representative people you could study if you want to make generalizations about human nature.”  They “see a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships.”

In other words, most people, and nearly all of the rest of the world, have totally different moral intuitions, and therefore moral concerns, from what we are told by the dominant voices in the West are universal intuitions and concerns.

WEIRD morality is “blind” to the concerns of others. (You’d think those obsessed with “multiculturalism” would welcome this conclusion, but you’d be wrong—liberals hate this conclusion, since it denies the primacy of autonomic individualism, a higher good.)

When he realized this, Haidt had a “red pill moment,” where he “stepped out of the matrix.”  He realized, of himself and his fellow liberals: “We never considered the possibility that there were alternative moral worlds in which reducing harm (by helping victims) and increasing fairness (by pursuing group-based equality) were not the main goals.”

The remainder of this long section is devoted to expanding the foundations of moral judgments beyond harm and fairness (clarified as pairs of opposites, “care/harm” and “fairness/cheating”) to include four others:  “loyalty/betrayal”; “authority/subversion”; “sanctity/degradation”; and “liberty/oppression.”

Again, it is hard to do justice to the incisive and insightful nature of this analysis. Suffice it to say that Haidt is correct, and once you view questions of morality, and of individuals’ views of morality, through this framework, rather than being confined in the straitjacket of mere harm and fairness, you understand what drives people much more than you did before.

Haidt emphasizes that these six ways of viewing the world (and perhaps others) are innate – not in the sense of being wholly predetermined, but in the sense of being “organized in advance of experience” – a “first draft” inherent in each person when born.

Those traits lead people along different paths, often reinforcing their inherent characteristics, though not always.

He notes repeatedly how, as with so many claims later proven wrong, a scientific “consensus” insisted until the 1990s that each person was a blank slate, but that has been proven definitively false.

All six foundations, Haidt believes, originated in evolutionary behaviors, which he identifies for each, but that does not make any one, or any set of them, more or less valid than another.

They all operate simultaneously in each human being. And they are all necessary for a good society: “…moral monism – the attempt to ground all of morality on a single principle – leads to societies that are unsatisfying to most people and at high risk of becoming inhumane because they ignore so many other moral principles.”

Of course, as will be obvious upon a moment’s reflection, and as Haidt explains, liberals draw their conclusions by relying on only three of these foundations (care, fairness and liberty), and often only two (fairness easily gives way to liberty, if oppression is thought to be present).

Haidt is himself liberal, and he admits his original personal response to these insights was to try to aggressively put them to use to help Democrats win elections (John Kerry’s election, to be specific).

His concern, then and now, was that since most conservatives (he identifies libertarians as very closely allied to liberals in their moral judgments, so here and elsewhere he means Burkean conservatives) rely more-or-less equally on all six foundations, their appeal is broader than the liberal appeal, which only offers something to a subset of the population.

Although he mentions Edmund Burke, Haidt’s exemplar of a conservative is not Burke. He also mentions other relevant thinkers, such as, Thomas Sowell (who invented the terminology of the “constrained vision” of human capacity, on which Haidt in part relies to characterize conservatives), and Robert Nisbet (the originator of modern conservative theories of community). But he relies on neither one.

Instead, Haidt chooses someone more obscure – the turn-of-the-century French sociologist Emile Durkheim, the polar opposite of John Stuart Mill.

Among other things, Durkheim believed in the centrality of the family and the critical importance of a society consisting of networked, overlapping groups, in which the individual as individual played little role.

He is Haidt’s exemplar of a conservative, fully realized in the sense of relying on all six of Haidt’s foundations of moral judgment, and Durkheim reappears repeatedly in the second half of the book.

While religion is the focus of a fair bit of discussion, it is all about the evolutionary value of religion. But the reader is left with the lurking feeling that much of what Haidt ascribes to evolutionary pressure, to the “first draft” of intuition, is in fact the latent Christianity that is the utterly dominant moral backdrop of the West, even now.

It may be true, for example, that human beings have an innate sense that others should not be unduly harmed, or that oppression is bad.  (Haidt ascribes these to the evolutionary motives of keeping children safe and “a response to adaptive challenge of living in small groups with individuals who would, if given the chance, dominate, bully, and constrain others”—but when weapons were developed, could be resisted).

But our interpretation of our intuition, the second draft made after the first draft of intuition, flows purely from Christianity, and it is hard to distinguish where one ends and the other begins.

To non-Christian cultures, for example, the Golden Rule is either unimportant or insane. Nobody has an innate urge to obey it.

The much more usual moral judgment of “care/harm” is that of the Roman dictator Sulla, who wrote as his epitaph, “No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full.”

This suggests that Haidt’s project of reclaiming some agreement on moral issues through better understanding others is doomed, since if it is true that what understanding we have relies largely or wholly on latent Christianity, as that disappears what agreement we have is likely to disagree as well.

As to the validity of Mill’s harm principle as the touchstone of moral judgment, we can do no better than examine the braying of progressive philosopher Martha Nussbaum.

Although Haidt does not mention her, she is in many ways the anti-Haidt. A large part of her recent career has revolved around her exaltation of the harm principle as the sole valid method of moral judgment, and the rejection of disgust, or what she claims to be disgust, as well as sanctity, as invalid.

She has become famous for this, mostly because her positions conveniently fit right into the Zeitgeist, in that she claims all traditional morality, especially sexual morality, is to be rejected in favor of total individual liberty, the holy of holies of modern progressivism.

Although I have not read her 2010 book From Disgust to Humanity, by all accounts its reasoning is exactly what Haidt finds most disturbing, and most cluelessly narrow.

Her book is an extended attack on any moral judgment that cannot be justified adequately to Nussbaum on the exclusive ground of Mill’s harm principle, and most especially on any moral judgment that depends in any way on a decision regarding sanctity or purity (i.e., in her mind, on moral judgments that are the opposite of “Humanity”).

Nussbaum further discovers a Constitutional imperative to enshrine in law her beliefs and way of looking at morality, which would have surprised any American jurist prior to 1950, and something Haidt, with his plea to understand and value all the different bases for moral judgments, doubtless finds troubling.

But that, of course, is why Nussbaum is so widely praised—she offers apparent intellectual cover for WEIRD individuals to write their preferences into law in a way that cannot be appealed and cannot be legislated against by the majority who still honor the morals of sanctity.

Presumably somewhere in her work Nussbaum enunciates why she believes the harm principle is the only moral criterion that can be permitted to exist; no doubt, her argument relies on assertions that only it is “rational.”

But as Haidt shows, this is just the result of a parched inability to understand human beings, and a rejection of the cognitive function of intuition – which is why Nussbaum and her many allies are, though they don’t realize it, on the wrong side of history.

The third part of the book focuses on why these intuitions developed from a Darwinian perspective, and in particular on “group selection” – behaviors in groups, especially moral behaviors, and why Haidt believes they developed, namely in order to confer evolutionary advantage on a group level.

This is another view that until recently was an utter heresy against the scientific consensus, and it is also the view that causes Haidt to attack the New Atheists (Dawkins, Harris, etc.) as blinkered and ignorant, for refusing to see the obvious truth that religion confers group advantages, especially “cooperation without kinship,” and is not a negative “parasite” or “virus.”

Haidt himself is an atheist, so this is in a sense an intra-atheist dispute. And his definition of religion, following Durkheim, is “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things,” in order to create a community.

This definition is broader than revealed religion, and could easily include, for example, the belief system of modern liberals and their institutions sometimes called the “clerisy” or the “Cathedral” – but that’s a topic for another day.

Here also Haidt veers into brief discussions of evolutionary genetic change in the recent human past (he believes it can and did happen, and continues to happen, but avoids excessive exploration, presumably so as not to get into the disputes that have embroiled Gregory Clark and Nicholas Wade, although he cites the latter several times).

As the reader can see, Haidt relies heavily on evolutionary explanations. I have always been skeptical of evolutionary explanations for human characteristics – as Haidt acknowledges, they often shade into “just so” stories.

Even if these explanations are true, or largely true, Haidt’s six foundations of moral intuitions do not explain many related areas of human nature. For example, why do people seek transcendence? But perhaps explaining everything is too much to ask, and what Haidt does explain is plausible enough.

Haidt’s ultimate evolutionary conclusion is that humans are a unique combination of mostly chimpanzee with a little bee – we are mostly self-interested individuals willing to form groups, but sometimes willing to be “ultrasocial” (his term for human eusociality) and make sacrifices for the group as a whole, in ways chimpanzees never would (apparently chimpanzees can’t even agree to carry a log together, not ever, or engage in any other behaviors Haidt calls “shared intentionality”).

“We evolved to live in groups,” which implies that an ethic of extreme individuality, as the WEIRDs would run society, goes against the grain of human nature.

Community is critical to human flourishing: “When societies lose their grip on individuals, allowing all to do as they please, the result is often a decrease in happiness and an increase in suicide, as Durkheim showed more than a hundred years ago.”

In other words, our society today exhibits “anomie—Durkheim’s word for what happens to a society that no longer has a shared moral order.”

Again, I am not doing justice to the volume of information and analysis contained in these pages, which manages to be both extremely dense and very readable, sweeping in everything from Aztec use of hallucinogens to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Haidt ends with a series of political analyses. He offers two conclusions unpalatable to liberals – that conservatives are stronger politically, because as noted above their political offerings resonate with the moral frames of more people, and that conservatives are mostly right in their approach to human nature and its political implications.

Haidt says that liberals, in fact to their detriment, typically are unable to understand conservatives, because their own moral framework is relatively limited, such that they retreat, when confronted with incomprehensible opposing beliefs, into the belief that conservatives are inherently evil.

For example, liberals are far less able than conservatives to take a survey of moral beliefs and successfully pretend to be of the other political persuasion; they totally fail to grasp how and why conservatives really think, to a much greater degree than conservatives of liberals.

This is not without consequences. In fact, sometimes, as Haidt explicitly notes, liberals react to their incomprehension with the belief that conservatives should be “exterminated” – a belief not found among conservatives about liberals. (Apparently conservatives are wise to keep buying guns).

Haidt clearly struggles with his own self-image as a progressive, while being forced by his scientific analysis to admit the possibility that “conservatives [might] have a better formula for how to create a healthy, happy society.”

This is probably why he has been accused of being a crypto-conservative – not only because he attacks liberal pieties that traditionally go wholly unchallenged, but he goes even farther and seems to substantively edge toward endorsing actual conservative beliefs, by openly praising Durkheim, Burke, and the accretion of “moral capital.”

In his point-counterpoint, it’s conservatives who have something to offer everyone, and liberals/libertarians who have a pinched, unproductive, unrealistic view of the world.

Thus, he calls for understanding opposing viewpoints, but offers opposing viewpoints that are not opposite and equal. He says the “liberal wisdom” that conservatives should accept boils down to some regulation being good, and that corporations should be restrained.

But conservatives would not much dispute those two modest propositions; many would applaud the latter, especially today.

Then Haidt offers “conservative wisdom” that is vastly broader and more generally applicable: “You can’t help the bees by destroying the hive,” in which Haidt offers a full-throated defense of Burkean “little platoons” in opposition to emancipation of the individual, and of “Durkeheimian utilitarianism,” exemplified by when “Adam Smith argued similarly [to Burke] that patriotism and parochialism are good things because they lead people to exert themselves to improve the things they can improve.”

These are vastly broader propositions than modest regulation and corporate controls; they are entire visions of the good and human society, and if this is “conservative wisdom,” it is of massively greater import than the “liberal wisdom” Haidt offers.

Compounding his offense, Haidt piles on, among other things citing Robert Putnam to the effect that even if liberals claim to “stand up for victims of oppression and exclusion,” since they ignore important moral foundations such as loyalty and authority, their “zeal . . . . often lead[s] them to push for change that weaken groups, traditions, institutions and moral capital.”

In other words, liberals erode, if not destroy, society.

Two examples Haidt gives are liberal devastation of the African American family (as a result of the elimination of sanctity as a moral imperative) and increasing racism among Hispanics, resulting from pushing multicultural education (by over-exalting freedom from supposed oppression).

Just like Mark Lilla, Haidt has no use at all for celebrations of multiculturalism and diversity, nor, presumably, for “inclusion” as that word is used today, the celebration of the abnormal and corrosive, and the violent suppression of the normal and traditional.

He advises, “Don’t call attention to racial and ethnic differences; make them less relevant by ramping up similarity and celebrating the groups’ shared values and common identity. . . . You can make people care less about race by drowning race differences in a sea of similarities, shared goals, and mutual interdependencies.”

In passing, Haidt destroys other liberal shibboleths, such as the primacy of emancipation from all authority, noting that “authority should not be confused with power” and “authority ranking relationships are based on perceptions of legitimate asymmetries, not coercive power; they are not inherently exploitative.”

Or, “Societies that forgo the exoskeleton of religion should reflect carefully on what will happen to them over several generations. We don’t really know, because the first atheistic societies have only emerged in Europe in the last few decades. They are the least efficient societies ever known at turning resources (of which they have a lot) into offspring (of which they have few).”

To say that all this is wildly offensive to most of today’s American progressives would be a gross understatement.

Of course, Haidt’s work opposes much conservative thought.

He rejects the truth of both any religion and anything such as natural law – morality may be based on innate intuitions, and human nature exists, but that does not imply that there is a deeper law, much less a law set by God. Humans have no teleology; Darwin exists in a vacuum.

Still, it would be valuable to try to apply Haidt’s framework to a variety of issues, though I won’t do so here. What of guns? Or global warming?

Abortion, for example, can be viewed in different ways depending on the external information used to inform innate impulses. Thus, in any abortion debate, care/harm is a critical question – but whose? That of the unborn child? The mother? Both? In what proportion?

Haidt, of course, doesn’t claim that his framework answers all moral questions – his claim is much more limited, that people approach moral questions in a definable way with certain common characteristics among all people, but with key differences as well, and that understanding this truth makes it possible both to discuss political matters with others and, up to a point, attempt to influence them in more productive ways than might otherwise be possible.

Haidt begins this book by quoting Rodney King, “Can we all get along?”

Since he wrote this book, in 2012, Haidt has become perhaps the most prominent liberal voice today in America calling for both a concerted effort to increase civility in political discourse, by using the frames he presents in this book, and by also calling for the toleration of conservatives in the academic world.

His linking of these things pretty clearly shows that he thinks that most narrow-mindedness, at least among elites, is on the liberal side.

He has been thinking this for a while; this theme can be seen in his modestly famous keynote speech at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, and in his more recent founding of a group, Heterodox Academy, explicitly devoted to reducing ideological persecution of conservatives in the academic world.

These are honorable and valuable goals, though I suspect the answer is “No, we can’t all get along,” and both Haidt’s analysis and events in the past six years support that answer.

Just because people of good will want others with hugely divergent moral visions to see everybody’s point of view does not mean that those people can live together in harmony, or even peace.

That’s too bad, but at least when we’re manning the barricades, if we’ve read this book, we’ll understand the people storming them better than we would have otherwise.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows, “The Conquerors of the Bastille in Front of the City Hall, 14 July 1789,” by Paul Delaroche, painted 1830-1838.

Two Sonnets


The sleeping eye in grandest dreams is lost,
And in vast emptiness is dowsed and tossed,
Where the world with eternity is crossed,
And darkness abides with pleasure untold.

The turning wheel of time leans to rapture,
Like breath is pressed and driven to capture
The memories upon the tongue that fracture
All the years gathered into life’s strong hold.

Multured sighs are sands upon the bright shore
Of lives lived, forgotten, as ages roar
Into boundless eons which spread before
That endless unknown span where stars unfold.

When shadows linger and when shadows fall
The blood remembers the high All, in all.



You are the gild and dance of deathless fire
That holds the colloquy of things long past.
What wisdom is caught in this earth’s dense brier,
Where dreams are ragged sails upon a mast?

The seamless spheres of day that cannot fade
Mold rich patterns, though none can yet define
High Beauty’s spreading calm which must abrade
This heart that it may not lie content like wine.

The whisper of your words is richer feast
As soars the arch despite the load of stone.
The building of my soul my breath increased,
That I might each hour, each minute atone.

The seamless stretch of time is your delight,
Which all may now have for a widow’s mite.



The photo shows, “Poème de l’âme 14: Sur la Montagne,” by Louis Janmot.

Presentism And Tyranny

The slow but eventual devolution of civilization is a difficult topic to discuss, since it runs counter to the usual human reaction which prefers to see the future in a rosier fashion – after all, our children and grandchildren have to live in it, and we would hardly want them to manage their way through Hell.

But ideas have consequences, and if we are to imagine the devolution of the West, we must turn to its true origins, the Greeks, and we must read again the words of the man who invented history, namely, Herodotus.

But first, let us consider some of the more prevalent (perhaps a better term is, “notorious”) ideas which now beset the West in these early years of the twenty-first century – ideas which the West seems to want to escape, but will not, no matter the consequences they might (or will) bring.

The most pressing is the Cult of Presentism, that deep-seated belief that the Western past is forever wrong, and because it was wrong, the past is responsible for bringing endless misery into the world.

This is finding expression in the rising and trendy racism of being anti-white.

Then, there’s the continuous self-abnegation via multiculturalism, where any hellish culture of the world is given equivalence and compatibility to the West, well, because the West has been terrible evil in the past (cue the role call of the “Crimes of the West”).

All this makes Presentism a rather peculiar beast. Why peculiar? Well, because it aligns rather perfectly with an ideology now promoted as the replacement of Christianity, namely, Islam.

At the core of Islam lies a version of Presentism, namely, the doctrine of Jahalat, or more commonly, Jahiliyyah, the root meaning of which is “ignorance.”

Let’s ponder this for a while.

In Islam, Jahiliyyah is understood in two ways, one references history, and the second points to the quality of true civilization.

Historically, Jahiliyyah means the world before Islam, which is regarded as a time of darkness and utter barbarity because it was wrapped in profound ignorance, since the past lacked both enlightenment and progress (the doctrinal term in Islam is “ilm” or “truth and wisdom”). Only Islam possesses ilm and holds it its duty to bring this ilm to the world.

Ilm is encoded perfectly in Shariah (divine law by which all humanity is supposed to live). The ilm of Shariah alone can establish a proper civilization and a proper culture – which means that Shariah is the ultimate destiny of all humanity.

Thus, anything before Islam is nothing but a perversion of the truth and worth nothing at all – hence the ease with which a sledgehammer can be swung in a museum.

The past is useless because it has no intrinsic worth whatsoever – because it lacks Shariah. The Islamic present is perfection because it has Shariah.

In other words, only Shariah is progress.

As well, Jahiliyyah opposes another Islamic quality (which builds civilization itself), namely, hilm, which is best rendered as, “cultured,” or “civilized.”

Thus, Islam brings ilm to a barbaric and depraved world, and this gives into human possession hilm, which in turn fashions the perfected man, enlightened and made progressive by ilm (the true and therefore only wisdom).

Hilm itself bestows particular virtues, namely, courage, strength and moral character, all of which are  given to a man once he has the ilm to follow Shariah properly.

Further, in Jahiliyyah humanity can be nothing other than savage, barbarous and ignorant.

Since Allah does not come down to govern the world himself, he sends his representative, the Shariah, to govern the world as he would govern it himself. This makes it imperative for all humanity to submit to the Shariah, because all humanity belongs to Allah.

This also points to another Islamic doctrine which holds that all humans are born Muslim; it is only the influence pf Jahiliyyah which lures them away from the truth of Shariah and changes them into infidels. Thus, it is the job of each Muslim to guide all of humanity to its proper destiny.

Notice the curious and important similarity with what Presentism holds to be true – that the past is forever flawed because it is backwards and ignorant, even barbaric, because it did not have progress. This progress is true enlightenment.

As well, Presentism declares the present to contain all the truths that humanity will ever need once and for all.

So, Presentism operates in the same way as Shariah, since both seek to build the better human being.

This brings us back to Herodotus, whose insights prove both Shariah and Presentism wrong, for both claim to be better than the past, but they cannot establish themselves as morally superior to the past.

Morality is a quality of virtue which cannot come about by submission to legality (Shariah), let alone by more efficient technology (Presentism).

Laws and gadgetry are meaningless without virtue. But what about hilm, is that not also about moral virtue? No, because hilm is achieved by way of ilm, which doctrinally is only possible through submission to Shariah.

But is “submission” the proper condition for virtue? Again, no, for to submit is to deny the self and acquiesce or “blend in.” Conformity is the public face of selfishness, because it is obedience to ensure social gain.

To stay silent when the individual will is being denied is also selfishness. Both Presentism and Shariah require such obedience and such denial.

Therefore, conformity cannot be virtuous, because it means denying the individual will.

Rather, virtue comes about when the individual will is pushed to imitate a transcendent model – and if we in society work towards perfecting individual virtue, only then can society and civilization become free of hubris – which Herodotus pinpoints as the “dynamite” which blows civilization up.

Indeed, both Shaiah and Presentism promote hubris, because both demand the complete rejection of the past.

When Herodotus considers why civilizations fall, even mighty ones, he does not veer into materialist causes of economics, politics, or social “forces.”

Rather, since he rightly understands history to be circular – not that it repeats itself, but that it occurs in repeating patterns – he points to human beings as the authors of their own grandeur and their own demise.

Thus, it is the moral character of the people living in a culture which makes their world survive or fail.

For Herodotus, then, civilizations fall because of hubris, which is moral deficiency. The proper translation, from the Greek, of “hubris” is not simply “excessive pride,” but really “outrageous selfishness.”

Hubris, as Theognis reminds us, leads to two consequences – kerdos (extreme selfishness) and koros (insatiability). Neither can lead to virtue.

In effect, both Presentism and Shariah are forms of hubris, in that they are meant to satisfy and perfect life lived in an unchanging present.

And yet, the past is also memory, and it is memory alone which makes us human. Thus, both Presentism and Shariah are anti-human because they deny the past, which is memory, for memory alone can define civilization as the content of its people’s virtue.

To destroy the past is to destroy virtue itself. In that both Presentism and Shariah are complicit.

It was Thomas Paine who observed, “When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember, that virtue is not hereditary.”

When we defend the past, we are defending memory certainly, but more importantly we are defending virtue, which is the moral fabric of our western civilization.

If we abandon our morality (which has now become our hubris), then perhaps it is better that we fall and disappear – for we will then have squandered the great moral legacy given to us to nurture and then pass on to future generations?

And it is the fruits of this morality that we daily – and thoughtlessly – still enjoy.

Now, are we truly good husbandmen of virtue? That is the question each must answer, after we have deeply examined the quality and character of our individual virtue.

Democracy can only work for a moral people – and that morality has to be the right kind, namely, the Judeo-Christian one, which is germane to the West. Otherwise, there is only hubris.

A clearer name for Presentism, then, is tyranny.


The photo shows, “The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon,” by Edward Burne-Jones, painted in 1898.

Pacifism As True Liberty

The true libertarian is a pacifist. All forms of violence restrain the will and freedom of others.

Violent acts are shackles of the Will, they run counter to the true principles of being a libertarian.

As a libertarian, I believe in the complete emancipation of the human being.

Libertarians “seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no on is forced to sacrifice his or her own values for the benefit of others.”

We reject all coercive authority, understanding hard power as a form of weakness and the restriction of liberty.

Violence is the ultimate expression of coercive authority; the antithesis of liberty and freedom.

We understand that humanity will misuse its freedom and seek to tarnish its liberties, but we hold firm to our principle.

When we give people the freedom to wield weaponry, some will misuse this freedom. They will use it to take away the freedoms of others, but nonetheless we stand by their right to have a gun.

The reasons for this are many.

We know that true stability doesn’t come from a world where people are not allowed to have guns.

True stability comes from a world where people are allowed to have guns, but through their own volition, refuse to abuse this liberty by murdering their compatriots.

Thus, the Will is stable and unleashed. It is not restrained, nor should it be restrained.

I concede that many libertarians will claim that weapons should only be used in self-defence, but they must beware of such hypocrisy.

All authoritarians base their desire to restrict freedoms as an act of self defense!

Hitler claimed that he was merely defending the German nation against the schemes of the Jew.

The Soviets claimed that they were merely defending the people against the capitalists. Self-defense is the foundation of the authoritarian!

Do not fall into the authoritarian hypocrisy of self-defence my libertarian brethren!

Those who seek security over freedom deserve neither!

In this Holy Christmas Season, Peace be upon you, and seek not to become that which you set out to destroy!


The photo shows, “The Goldfish Seller,” by George Dunlop Leslie.

How Pagan Is Christianity?

Every Christmas season, the usual myths are hauled out and distributed for popular consumption. You know them. We’ve all heard or read them.

  • That Christmas celebrations were stolen from the Romans
  • The Christmas tree is a pagan hangover
  • That other gods had virgin births
  • That Yule and the mistletoe are all about Odin

These falsehoods are repeated often and loudly, under the guise of being “historical truths.” And strangely they still stump most Christians, who are then filled with doubt about what they believe.

Of course, these myths were designed to elicit precisely this sort of reaction from believers.

All of them were invented in the 18th- and 19th-centuries by specific writers, who were looking for ways to finally destroy Roman Catholicism. It was, in fact, a continuation of the Black Legend (the anti-Catholic propaganda of the Protestants, which continues to this day and has now been taken up by secularists).

Three writers of such legends have had the most long-reaching influence, despite peddling in ahistorical and groundless suppositions.

The earliest is Paul Ernst Jablonski (1693-1757), who in his De origine festi nativitatis Christi (Concerning the Origins of Christmas) set out to destroy Roman Catholicism by claiming that it was all pagan superstition (a view still rather common among many Protestants).

He was the first to suggest that Christmas was nothing other than a pagan celebration for Mithras (the Persian god adopted into the Roman army, like a mascot, if you will). Until recently, in fact, Protestants tended not to celebrate Christmas, deeming it to be paganism.

Jablonski made all his claims without a shred of historical evidence. But his real legacy is the habit of mind that he created – which holds to the supposition that beneath the superficial Christian overlay, there is a jumble of ancient superstitions, myths, pagan folk customs and practices. Scratch a Christian and you find a Roman pagan.

And this habit of mind is now a thriving industry, with everyone and his uncle nursing a pet theory about how “pagan” Christianity really is.

Ernst Friedrich Wernsdorf (1718-1782) picked up where Jablonski left off and claimed that Christmas was just an adapted Roman celebration for the Unconquerable Sun (Sol Invictus). He laid out his case in De originibus solemnium natalis Christi ex festivitate natalis invicti (The Origins of Christmas in the Festival of the Birth of the Unconquerable Sun). These were the good-old days when people actually knew Latin and always wrote in it (but that’s another topic).

Wernsdorf further popularized the trend of finding ways to debunk Christianity via spurious historical references. In this view, Christians were a fraud, foisted upon the world by conniving, power-hungry lot who wanted to control the Roman Empire.

The real historical evidence points to the fact that Christians were always distancing themselves from anything pagan. So much so that they were willing to be slaughtered in the arenas, rather than agree to anything the pagans wanted them to do to fit into Romanitas (being Roman).

In fact, Christians were renowned throughout the Roman world for neither adopting nor adapting to Roman ways.

But Wernsdorf did set an influential precedent – implicating Christianity for “stealing” pagan ideas, festivals, theology, and making them their own. Again, all these assertions were made without a stitch of historical evidence – just a lot of suppositions and assumptions.

His views would find their most eloquent expression in Edward GibbonsThe History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (published in 1776, yes, the same year as the American Revolution).

This, then led to all kinds of suppositions about just how pagan Christianity was. Gibbons suggested that Christians destroyed the Roman Empire and replaced it with a terrible Dark Age, filled with superstition, ignorance and narrow-mindedness.

His explanation as to how Christians managed to do this was by a policy of adapting and adopting everything pagan, giving it a quick whitewash and proclaiming it as sound “Christian” theology – and in this way they won friends and influenced people.

We have to bear in mind that when Jablonski, Wensdorf and Gibbons are writing, there is a lot of interest in history among ordinary people (antiquarianism). Thus, there’s a great demand for books that explore and explain the past.

Antiquarianism would go on to establish history as a science, as well as archaeology, paleography, chronology. In short, the diachronic approach.

So, it’s also at this point that another modern phenomenon began to emerge – popular history, which took on a life of its own, and soon was separated from real, scholarly, evidence-based inquiries into past.

One such popularist was Alexander Hislop (1807-1865), whose life mission was to annihilate the Roman Catholic Church once and for all. He set about doing this by claiming that everything about Catholicism was nothing other than the disguised paganism of ancient Babylon.

It was Hislop who turned Constantine into the great “villain” who connived to create the Roman Catholic Church, building it entirely on the ancient Babylonian. religion.

This cartoon version of Constantine is now widely popular and taken to be the “truth” by many.

Another contemporary, Charles William King (1818-1888), who published his influential work, The Gnostics and their Remains, in 1864, claimed that Christianity was simply Mithraism whose object of worship was the sun. King knew nothing about Mithraism, other than what he could find in Latin sources. And, of course, Mithraism has nothing to do with the sun.

As the work of the historians continued to bring to light more ancient civilizations, the “paganizers” found more grist for their various mills.

The most important among these was Gerald Massey (1828-1907), who went more ancient than Rome and latched on to Egypt as the “real” root of Christianity. It’s he who is responsible for the howler that Jesus is actually Horus (the ancient Egyptian sky god, often depicted as a falcon).

Wallace the went to town as he concocted a heady brew of “proofs” – that Horus was born of a virgin mother; that Horus was baptized in a river by a baptizer named, Anup; that Horus has twelve disciples; that Horus was crucified and rose from the dead and proclaimed as savior of mankind.

None of this is true, of course. It’s all Wallace letting his imagination run amok.

So, this brief exertion into the origins of the still-vibrant Debunk Christianity industry points to something far more important

  • That Christianity is unique. It has no pagan links. All claims that assert a pagan connection are easily destroyed (it would be dull going through them one-by-one)
  • That the message of Christianity is entirely new. Nothing like ut ever existed in the ancient world.
  • That unlike the pagan gods, Jesus is a thoroughly historical figure.
  • That Christian theology is unlike any other, whose main principles (love, forgiveness, charity, and a personal relationship with God) are unprecedented in any other religion.
  • That even the Resurrection is a verifiable, historical event, entirely provable by clear evidence.

The consequences of all the attacks by the “paganizers” (who have now grown in number) are easily disproved.

This means that…

Christmas is only Christian and nothing else, and was established as a Christian feast day from the very earliest time of the faith.

Christmas trees are an ancient symbol of the hope that Christ offers. They are “paradise trees,” and symbolize the Garden of Eden, to which faith in Christ returns the human being. They has nothing to do with Germanic or Roman pagan festivals (for which we have no concrete historical evidence).

The mistletoe represents the love of God, which is why couples kiss beneath it. The Old English word, “mistel” really refers to the herb, basil, which in ancient Christian herbals (book of healing herbs), is associated with the crucifixion.

And, no, the mistletoe is not a hangover from “Germanic” paganism. We have no idea what the ancient Germanic tribes worshipped, because the further back we go, the more Roman these tribes present themselves – and the evidence of Christianity is pervasive among them. By the time, these Germanic people appear in history, they are already Christians. The connection with Baldur is spurious, since none can now say what is ancient and pagan and what is invented by Snorri Sturluson to flesh out his narratives.

As for the term, “yule,” the earliest mention comes from Bede who tells us that it was the name for the month of December among the Anglo-Saxons.

We cannot really use the Scandinavian evidence because it is much later (Snorri Sturluson dates from the 13th-century). So, Bede makes the earliest reference. And Odin is nowhere in sight! All the later mythologizing is merely neo-pagan wishful thinking.

Murdo Macdonald, in his book, The Need To Believe, summarizes all these efforts to make Christ and Christianity into anything but what it really is – the very heart and soul of the West:

“…certain authors tried to prove that Jesus, as a historical person, never existed. He was only a figment of the imagination, a fanciful creation, a mythical figure, giving expression to the religious aspirations of mere heretical tendencies of the time. These attempts have long been abandoned and no reputable scholar gives them a passing thought… It may be possible to ignore the New Testament and to misread history, selecting only those parts of it which lend sanction and support to our own personal bias, but it is difficult all the time to elude the challenge of Christ Incarnate in human character.”

Christianity is not pagan in any way. It is uniquely its own. This is what scholarly history shows us. Though the lies be many, there can be only one truth.



The photo shows, “The Triumph of Christianity Over Paganism,” by Gustave Doré, painted perhaps in 1868.

Propaganda: A Brief Guide

“Propaganda” is a term often heard and used, but also often misunderstood and therefore misused.

A systematic and detailed explanation is found in the work of the French philosopher Jacques Ellul, who precisely lays out the nature and even the variety of propaganda, in his book, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes.

First of all, Ellul gives a broad definition to propaganda, by referring to it as “an enterprise for perverting the significance of events”

In other words, facts when they are written down are rigorously interpreted according to a group’s (or government’s) ideas about its history and its future.

Then, Ellul proceeds to lay out a precise system of categories through which propaganda functions.

These groupings are four in number, namely, political and sociological propaganda, agitation and integration propaganda, vertical and horizontal propaganda, and finally, rational and irrational propaganda.

Political propaganda involves various methods of influence, used by a group (government), to achieve precise goals.

Ellul calls sociological propaganda “persuasion from within,” since it is always expressed by an individual who has thoroughly integrated the political and cultural values and ideologies of his society and who then uses such ideologies to make value judgements which he feels are entirely natural.

Agitation propaganda, as the term suggests, is aggressive and seeks immediate results, aiming to overthrow a government or the traditional order of things.

As such, it is always subversive and antagonistic, and is often used by groups or governments, since its focus is to break down “psychological barriers of habit, belief and judgement.”

Integration propaganda, on the other hand, is “patient,” seeking to stabilize social behavior, and its aim is to produce conformity.

Vertical propaganda flows from the top down, usually from a leader who seeks to influence all those below.

Ellul defines horizontal propaganda as emanating from “inside the group (and not from the top), where in principle, all individuals are equal and there is no leader.”

Rational propaganda is aimed at the intellect, and relies on facts, statistics and economic ideas – however, its aim is to produce irrationality in the individual.

On the opposite end is irrational propaganda which seeks to evoke emotional, fearful or passionate responses.

And it is here that Orwell’s observation makes perfect sense – that “all propaganda is lies, even when one is telling the truth.”



The photo shows, The Green Sofa, by Sir John Lavery, painted in 1893.